A Year of Thor: THOR #4

This post is part of an ongoing series.

Thor #4

You are warned, here be spoilers.

So much of what works in this run on Thor is its treatment of Thor as a god. Sometimes it’s the tension between this role and his perceived role as a superhero. The way Straczynski writes him, Thor himself doesn’t seem to see himself as a superhero – there’s merely a lot of overlap between the two roles.

At its climax, this issue gives us another round of mythic storytelling – not “mythic” in the sense of “big event with lots of characters”, the sense in which it’s used interchangeably with “epic”. No, this is a true myth – the story of the origin of something.

The issue starts out with the pure mundane – first the charming, quaint mundane of Dr. Donald Blake’s Oklahoma, then the darker, bleaker mundane of a refugee camp in Africa. Dr. Blake journeys there with Médecins Sans Frontières, to help treat the victims of tribal genocide. While there, the camp is attacked. Thor fends off the attack, and three of refugee camp’s bodyguards turn out to be the Warriors Three, trapped in mortal guise. After the attack, Thor frees them.

What began with the mundane, then, leads into the technically sublime – the deeds of gods. This aspect is driven home with the aforementioned mythic event: Thor asks the locals where their territory ends and the territory of the aggressors begins. Once he’s been shown, Thor uses his divine might to open a great chasm, separating the two. Thor changes the geography of the land. The land now has a great canyon in it, whose origin is not simple erosion or the movement of fault lines, but a story involving gods.

There’s a certain amount of wish fulfillment here, naturally. After characters have spent much of the issue discussing the lack of easy answers for this situation, God fixes it. Far from diminishing the significance of the real-world problem of genocide, Straczynski’s depiction of this divine solution is as good as an admission that there is no obvious solution. God fixed it. Nothing else will do.

I have more nitpicks with this issue than any other up to this point. There’s a bad depiction of a French accent – the French-speaker gets most of his English right, but throws in French “accent words” – greetings, courtesy terms for people, oui and non. This is backwards – those are the easy words, therefore those are the words for which he’s least likely to lapse back into French.

A bigger nitpick is in something Thor says while he’s creating the chasm:

“Born I was a god of thunder… son of Odin… but also a son of the Earth… a child of the elder goddess Gaea. Only recently I learned this, and rarely have I invoked that power, or spoken with that voice.”

I can grant him the use of the Hellenic “Gaia”, rather than a Germanic “Jörd”, but “only recently I learned this”? Really? Marvel makes a point of using the real world as the baseline for its own universe. Whereas in the DC universe, Lex Luthor can become president, in the Marvel U it’s Bush, Clinton, Bush II, Obama. Presumably, then, the Marvel universe has copies of the Prose Edda – or, for that matter, Wikipedia. Thor and the other Asgardians being ignorant of their own mythology will come up again, later in these issues, with greater significance – we will see a character shocked by a revelation that shouldn’t be any revelation at all.

Though this issue has its faults, I still find it quite satisfying. Straczynski’s implementation of the myth is utterly delightful, an impressive and seamless melding of the classical form with modern characters and setting.